Originally published on GuardianLV.com.
On Extreme Weight Loss (ABC) Michigan native Alyssa Stommen, 22, has turned to food since she was 10 years old, trying to find comfort and solace after her mother, Laura, died in a tragic car accident. Alyssa’s life changed forever, and she gained over 300 pounds, starting out the episode at 414 pounds.
She says she was “Momma’s little girl” and that she was always happy growing up, and loved to go swimming.
She says of her mother “she was definitely the rock of the family.”
“I’ve never been the same since,” Alyssa says, at the scene where her mother died in the crash. She and her sister were also in the car, but were not seriously injured. A deer ran in front of them, and Alyssa’s mother was ejected from the car, ending up in the middle of the road.
“It’s engraved into the middle of my mind forever,” Alyssa says. “There was food everywhere. I turned to food to fill the void inside of me,” she tells the camera.
“When your kid wakes up in the middle of the night crying for her mom, what do you do?” her father says on camera. He took her to the movies, bought her snacks, and pizza, trying to make her feel better if just for a short while.
She works in a bank, answering phone calls all day long. “My work, on a regular basis, has doughnut days — no joke,” she says. “I love the smell of doughnuts. They give you a comfort feeling inside — I just love donuts.”
Chris calls, claiming he’s lost his his ATM card. He tells her his first name, then spells out his last name. She still doesn’t realize it’s Chris Powell, until he finally lets her know.
“This is, by far, the best phone call I’ve ever had in my entire life,” she says. “I feel like I’ve been letting my mom down,” she says. She considers it to be an opportunity to change her life around.
“It’s just a half-mile away from where Alyssa had her life changed forever,” Chris says to the camera. She had Alyssa run the half-mile to the California Well being and Longevity palace where all of the participants in the show start out.”I didn’t care how badly my lungs burned,” she says.
“Welcome to the next year of your life,” Chris tells her.
“This is the only scale that’s big enough and accurate enough to weigh you,” Chris tells her at Alyssa’s initial weigh-in. It reads 414 pounds. “How’d that happen?” Chris asks
“Twelve years of trying to fill that void inside of me,” she says.
“You’re killing yourself,” Chris tells her. “Get ready to start living.”
He has her climb a mountain of sand. “There’s just one thing you have to do,” he says, “Get to the top. You can quite any time you want, but I feel that you want to continue living.”
“My lungs were burning; my legs were hurting,” she says to the camera. “I just wanted to give up.”
I just wish my Mom was here,” she tells Chris.
“She is, you know that. What would she say if she was here?”
“Kick ass and don’t look back!” Alyssa tells Chris.
She makes it to the top of the mountain of sand. “I’m so proud of you,” Chris says.
“I can feel her here with us,” Alyssa says.
“Candy is very addictive,” her nutritionist says. She tells Alyssa other foods she can eat that are sweet, but are good for her, like fruit.
Chris gives her a Walmart gift card for the food for the entire year. Chris tells the camera that the makeover is the biggest one yet, as the entire city of Kalamazoo pitched in to help.
“You’ve got a new roof,” Chris tells her, “and a new chimney.”
His crew had worked magic, as well, installing a new stove, other kitchen appliances, new living room furniture, and a memory jar, containing photos that are significant to her.
“This is the largest makeover that we’ve ever done,” he tells her, “That I’ve ever been personally responsible for.”
Chris tells her that outside the door, there’re people who want to see her — it’s the entire community of Kalamazoo, who applaud when Chris opens up the door. Alyssa is amazed, and thanks everyone for what they’ve done.
“So you like your house?” Chris asks.
“I love my house,” Alyssa says.
“I’ve got one more surprise for you,” Chris says. He takes her outside, and shows her a brand-new pool there.
Chris is with her through the initial days. “She just spends most of her time in the pool,” he says. She seems to love it.
However, Alyssa starts to get sick “every single time,” she works out, Chris says. “I’ve seen it before,” he tells the camera. “Your body’s purging, trying to cleanse itself,” he tells her.
“Just for today, why don’t I eat how you ate?” Chris asks her. He eats the sorts of overly processed junk foods that she did on a regular basis, but he tells her that she needs to eat like he does,
“I’ve never eaten like this,” he says, “and frankly, I’m scared.” He tells her, “This is basically all I need to eat in a day.”
“Halfway there,” Alyssa tells him.
“I’ve got to drink something,” he says.
“What do you usually drink?”
“A soft drink,”
“Are you kidding me?” he asks her. But, she isn’t. Chris is already starting to feel sick. She tells him that she also ordinarily would eat a couple of doughnuts.
“You could tell he was literally forcing down every bite he took,” she says.
“I’m so full at this point,” he tells the camera. “And it’s not even noon yet.”
At lunch time, Alyssa orders Chris the food that she would ordinarily eat, including a 20-count order of chicken nuggets. Chris is looking as if he’s regretting saying that he would eat that much food.
“I almost feel like I do when I’m sick,” Chris says. He can’t eat more than three chicken nuggets before he starts to throw up into the fast food sack.
Alyssa starts gagging just seeing Chris, and leaves the room.
“I’m done — lesson learned,” Chris says. He tells her he hasn’t eaten like that in 12 years.
“Would you mind if I lay down for just a little bit?” he asks her. He is still “a bit groggy” even the next morning.
The next day, he has his friend, Drew Manning, who is also a weight loss coach and author, come over to talk to Alyssa. Drew tells her that he ate junk food for a year and gained over 70 pounds, then lost it all. But, he tells her that it made him lethargic, and like he didn’t want to do much of anything.
Chris, Drew, and Alyssa work out together.
“I was able to document everything that happened throughout my weight gain then weight loss journey,” he says.
“The bigger I got, the lees my confidence became. I was even self-conscious about being in front of my wife,” he tells Alyssa, saying he’d cover up.
At the Phase One 90-day weigh-in, Chris tells her he’s already seeing changes, and that her cloths are looking bigger on her. “Go ahead; step on the scale,” he says.
Her weight loss goal was to lose 105 pounds. She has lost that weight, and more — she weighs in at 306 pounds.
“My milestone is amazing!” she says, when Chris tells her that they will go snowboarding at her 6-month weigh-in. They will snowboard in Whistler, Colorado.
“We’re going whether you lose the weight or not,” he tells her.
Her Phase Two goal is to lose 60 pounds. She finds that it’s much more difficult to do, and that the pounds aren’t dropping off like they did during Phase One.
Alyssa says she’s been struggling, and goes to the doctor, who tells her she has strep throat. “I’m still choosing to overeat,” she says, admitting that she is not eating as many sweets, but still is choosing to overeat other foods.
“The only way out of it that I can see,” she tells the camera, “is to physically make myself puke.”
“I haven’t seen Alyssa in 3 months,” Chris tells the camera, and says he’s excited to see her and how much she’s changed.
But, she tells him that she’s been affected by having a bad case of strep throat, and she also admits to him that she has been throwing food up. “I did not prepare myself to go into detail here,” she says. “I already fell enough shame. I don’t need people to judge me for mistakes that I’ve made. Please…Chris, I love you, and you’re an amazing trainer, but I just can’t tell you what’s been going on.”
“Would you talk to my wife Heidi?” he asks her “She’s gone through this sort of thing herself before.”
She tells her yes. He says he will still weigh her, but won’t even show her the number. “If this scale says 246 pounds or less, you’ve hit your goal. But, this number is just for me. As I looked at the scale and the 40 pounds she lost, I’m not even worried about the number. But, it’s going in the right direction,” he tells Alyssa.
He wants her to get the help she needs, whatever that might be, and that’s really more important at this point than if she meets any arbitrary weight-loss figure. He hopes that talking to his wife, Heidi, will help her.
At the Chateau Whistler, Chris enters the house with Heidi. “Babe, guess who I’ve brought home,” he says.
“My body was so hungry, because I’d been starving myself.” Heidi tells her. would not eat, then binge, then throw up, thinking taht she’d made a terrible mistake.
“You can get help before it’s too late. It’s not hopeless; it’s far from hopeless.”
“What do you say your Phase Three goal is 6? Six days a week, you will try to hit your calorie goals, and if you lose weight or not, just try this out. What do you say that you go home with Heidi and me?”
She says that would be great, and that being with Heidi would be a big help for her.
Then, as Chris promised her, they go snowboarding.
“Whoa,” Chris says. “It’s kind of steep.”
But, she keeps getting back up even when she fall down, even though she has some problems at first.
Then, Chris tells her he’s brought in Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Jacobellis to help her.
“When you here about Alyssa’s story, it’s really amazing,” she says.
“For her to learn from one of her idols– finally, I think she’s getting a little bit more hope,” Chris says to the camera.
“We need a way to find for Alyssa to feel as if she’s not being deprived,” Heidi tells the camera.
Rejuvenated, having taken the leap of faith and again seeing results, Alyssa is doing much better. Chris send her to a dentist, as he does for many of his clients, to improve her smile.
She tells the camera: “I’m the only person standing in the way of my surgery.” She is confident, and seems to have a renewed intensity to her work outs.
At the Phase Three weigh-in, Chris asks her again if she would be okay with it seeing her number. She tells him yes, so he tells her that she weighed 266 at Whistler a the last weigh-in.
She steps on the scale. “I’m excited to see what that number will be,” she tells the camera. “But, that number doesn’t define me.” That’s a much healthier attitude for her to take.
Commercials galore, and then….
Back at Chris and Heidi’s house in Arizona, at the weigh-in, we learn that Alyssa weighs in at 216 pounds — she has lost 50 pounds! “Oh, my gosh!” Chris exclaims. “That’s insane! That’s more than anyone has lost during Phase Three!” he says.
He takes her in to see the doctor the next day, and says that she’s lost 43 percent of her original body weight.
“One of the things that I’m going to want to do is to remove a lot of this tissue. I think that you’re very close, but I don’t think that you’re the optimum candidate yet,” he says.
“If you drop down to 200 pounds or less, I think that you’d be an optimum candidate and I’d be willing to give you the surgery then.” This news is heart-breaking for Alyssa, who thought for sure she’s be told she could have the surgery then.
“It’s not fair,” she says.
“I know how bad she wants it,” Chris tells her. She wants to have the surgery before the weigh-in.
“What’s riding on the line is your health,” Chris tells her. “He’s not going to gamble with it, and you shouldn’t, either.” It’s difficult for Alyssa — she says she will be glad about the weight she’s lost at the final weigh-in, but just not feel right that she will still have the extra skin, and wouldn’t be able to have the surgery until after the weigh-in.
Chris tells the camera that he would never have suspected that he’d be getting a call from Alyssa in Florida. She is there with Jackie from season two, and is working out with her there. “The end is so much harder,” Jackie says.
“It’s going to be 90 days since anyone has seen me,” Alyssa says when the end of Phase Four draws near, referring to the people of Kalamazoo. She’s excited to show them the new Alyssa.
“She felt so much pressure, because she did so well the first 90 days,” Chris tell s the crow of well-wishers there. “The last time I saw Alyssa was three months ago,” he tells them. Then, he introduces “the new Alyssa,” and the crowd goes wild cheering and applauding her.
“This is your moment, this is your night,” he tells her.
“You know, I’ve struggled with some things. The last three months, has maybe not gone so perfectly,” she continues. “It was just trying to change things up, getting things to work.”
“Are you ready for your final weigh-in?” Chris asks her. “If you’re under 200 pounds tonight, you will qualify for the skin removal surgery, and I will take you to see the doctor.”
She weighed 210 pounds. “You’re so close — so close,” Chris says.
“I only lost six pounds,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean I’m done. I will continue on, trying to find that balance.”
Chris offers her the chance to go to a center which works with people trying to find that balance, and says: “It’s there if you want it.” Jackie’s helped me learn to love myself,” she says.
Chris says that his friends at Walmart wanted her to start off right, so he brings her a sack of fresh fruit, and also gives her a $25,000 gift card.
“Now we can celebrate!” Chris tells everyone there. “Okay! What do you think about another six weeks at the center?”
She tells him that she’d rather spend the six weeks doing other things, but in a follow-up in printing on the screen it said that Alyssa later took Chris up on the offer.
I sincerely hope that it works out for Alyssa, and that, whatever else happens, she will find happiness in her life.